Raising further questions about his presidential bona fides, Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson failed to name a single foreign leader he admired, in what he called an "Aleppo moment" during a town hall-style interview on MSNBC Wednesday night.
When asked by host Chris Matthews to name his "favorite foreign leader," Johnson drew a blank. "Prodded to come up with something, he finally settled on a former president of Mexico—but couldn't recall his name," the Associated Press reported.
Watch the exchange, also featuring Libertarian vice-presidential candidate Bill Weld (who named German Chancellor Angela Merkel as his top choice), below:
Observers said the gaffe was evidence that Johnson is unprepared to serve in the White House. "Gary Johnson can't name a single foreign leader. Can we stop pretending he's a real alternative now?" was the headline at Salon, while others piled on via social media:
— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) September 29, 2016
So, what's the game plan here? To make it clear that Donald Trump isn't the most ill-informed presidential candidate? https://t.co/wevfAYHn6i
— Jeet Heer (@HeerJeet) September 29, 2016
That's OK. Not a single foreign leader can identify Gary Johnson. https://t.co/aGWuIiIacW
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— Sanho Tree (@SanhoTree) September 29, 2016
Hope the phrase 'Aleppo moment' doesnt catch on. Aleppo's having a lot of moments-none related to US election circus https://t.co/arIZCDBnAB
— Ishaan Tharoor (@ishaantharoor) September 29, 2016
Still, despite Johnson's seeming lack of foreign policy knowledge, he's drawing a significant amount of support in the 2016 election—much of it from "young Democrats and Independents who supported Bernie Sanders in the primary," wrote ThinkProgress editor-in-chief last week.
As Common Dreams reported Wednesday, recent polls have shown Johnson chipping away at millennial support for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, with one pollster recently telling Vox: "The millennial vote isn't Hillary versus [Republican nominee Donald] Trump. It's Hillary versus Gary Johnson versus sitting on the couch on Election Day."
"That's nuts," argued The Stranger's Dan Savage in a column on Monday:
Name an issue Sanders ran on—TPP, Citizen's United, climate change, minimum wage, health care, free college tuition—and Johnson is on the opposite side. Sanders wants to raise the minimum wage, Johnson doesn't think there should be a minimum wage; Sanders wants a single payer health-care system, aka "Medicare for all," Johnson wants to eliminate Medicare and let the free market work its magic; Sanders opposed TPP, Johnson supports TPP; Sanders wants the federal government to guarantee free college tuition, Johnson wants to eliminate what little support the federal government currently provides to college students; Sanders thinks climate change is a threat to humanity, Johnson thinks we shouldn't do anything to address climate change because colonizing habitable planets we haven't yet discovered is the far easier solution—and, hey, Earth is going to be swallowed up by the sun billions of years from now so let's eliminate all regulations on the energy industry and destroy Earth ourselves before the sun has a chance.
Indeed, Legum wrote, "If you went into a lab and created a candidate who has the opposite view of corporate power as Bernie Sanders, he would look a lot like Gary Johnson."
The New Hampshire Union Leader further reported that at Wednesday's town hall event, Johnson vowed to cut funding to Planned Parenthood by 20 percent if elected.
"Gary Johnson's libertarianism is very, very different from Bernie Sanders' altruistic democratic socialism," wrote Salon columnist Heather Digby Parton in her take-down on Thursday.
"Sanders believes that government has an affirmative duty to help people," she continued, while
Johnson believes that government is an impediment to the natural working of the free market. It's overwhelmingly obvious that Clinton comes much closer to the Sanders philosophy than does Johnson. Given how close the election is in certain key states, a few protest votes could put Donald Trump in the White House. As Sanders is telling anyone who will listen, "Before you cast a protest vote—because either Clinton or Trump will become president—think hard about it. This is not a governor's race. It's not a state legislative race. This is the presidency of the United States." It's also the future of the planet.
Whether Johnson's latest stumble will weaken his base of support remains to be seen. But as The Atlantic wrote on Thursday, "For so many voters, this election is a choice between two undesirable options. Set aside whether Clinton and Trump are equally distasteful for the moment; just recognize that Johnson has an exceptionally low bar to clear. And yet again, he has shown that he's unable to clear it."